But the dark has come, and I must catch my train. As I speed through a vast industrial district I find in the evening papers hideous details of the Zeppelin raid, which give a peculiar passion and poignancy to my recollections of a crowded day—and peculiar interest, also, to the talk of an able representative of the Ministry of Munitions, who is travelling with me, and endeavouring to give me a connected view of the whole new organisation. As he speaks, my thoughts travel to the English battle-line, to the trenches and casualty clearing-stations behind it, to distant Russia; and I think of the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament—that the supply of munitions, for all its marvellous increase, is not yet equal to the demand. New shops, new workers, new efforts—England is producing them now unceasingly, she must go on producing them. There must be no pause or slackening. There will be none.
I am going now to see—after the Midlands—what the English and Scotch north is doing to swell the stream. And in my next letter there will be plenty to say about “Dilution” of labour, about wages, and drink, and some other burning topics of the moment.
It is now three months since Mr. Lloyd George made his startling speech, as Munitions Minister, in the House of Commons in which, as he wound up his review of his new department, he declared: “Unless we quicken our movements, damnation will fall on the sacred cause for which so much gallant blood has flowed!” The passion of this peroration was like the fret of a river in flood chafing at some obstacle in its course. Generally speaking, the obstacle gives way. In this case Mr. George’s obstacle had begun to give way long before December 21st—the date of the speech. The flood had been pushing at it with increasing force since the foundation of the Ministry of Munitions in the preceding summer. But the crumbling process was not quick enough for Great Britain’s needs, or for the energy of her Minister.
Hence the outspoken speech of December 21st, supported by Mr. Asquith’s grave words of a few weeks later. “We cannot go on,” said the Prime Minister in effect, “depending upon foreign countries for our munitions. We haven’t the ships to spare to bring them home, and the cost is too great. We must make them ourselves.” “Yes—and quicker!” Mr. Lloyd George had already said, with a sharp emphasis, meant to “hustle” that portion of the nation which still required hustling; overpainting his picture, no doubt, but with quite legitimate rhetoric, in order to produce his effect.